Right Brain vs. Left Brain Majors

Find out how majors that favor logical left-brained thinkers to right-brained creative types compare on salary potential, job meaning and more.
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We all know that STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) majors lead to high-paying careers – that’s why schools that graduate the most engineering majors have topped our school rankings year after year. But this visualization points out that creativity is vital to many fields of study, and that there is no shortage of potential college majors that benefit from a little abstract thinking.

Most majors require a combination of both the logic of the left brain and the creativity of the right in order to succeed. PayScale has categorized 214 common bachelor’s degree majors by the side of the brain they favor and compared them on their salary potential, sense of job meaning and what percentage of graduates with that major recommend it to others.

First we categorized majors as Left Brain, Left Dominant, Evenly Mixed, Right Dominant and Right Brain. Left Brain and Right Brain majors rely almost exclusively on skills associated with one side of the brain only. Left Brain majors, like electrical engineering and actuarial mathematics use logic, ration and reason while Right Brain majors like theater and English literature require creativity, intuition and subjective analysis. Left Dominant and Right Dominant majors definitely favor one side of the brain, but are greatly aided by complementary skills from the other side. For example, mechanical engineering majors use right brain skills to build models and creatively solve engineering challenges, while marketing majors complement their creative ideas with logical analysis of case studies and metrics. Finally, Evenly Mixed majors use a nearly fifty-fifty blend of both skillsets in their coursework. Examples include industrial design and psychology.

We also compare the majors on job meaning (what percent of graduates with that major say their jobs make the world a better place). A high paycheck is nice, but doing work you really believe in counts for a lot as well – and both right and left brain majors can earn big marks for job meaning.

The size of the circle representing each major represents what percentages of graduates recommend their major.